(CMR) Several American flight inspectors who were allowed to enter the Cayman Islands as quarantine exempt personnel have now caused at least five Cayman Islands Airport Authority (CIAA) employees to be placed into mandatory quarantine. The inspectors arrived on June 21 and were scheduled to stay until June 25 and were not required to adhere to the strict quarantine protocols.
Serious questions are being asked about this breach that has not yet been publically disclosed by the Cayman Islands Government. CMR understands that the two subcontractors were allowed entry into the Cayman on the premise that they would wait to receive a negative PCR test before working, they would be escorted by security directly to the aircraft and they would wear masks and gloves during this time.
They were hired by CIAA to conduct safety flight checks of navigational equipment.
However, on Tuesday, June 22 around 10:00 a.m. the male and female inspectors arrived at the Owen Roberts Airport's private airport section and proceeded to unload a vehicle at the general aviation terminal building before entering to file a local flight plan.
This appears to have been in contravention with the terms of their arrangement to limit their contact with any third parties and be escorted by an operations officer. One condition of their special arrangement was that they complete a PCR test on arrival at the airport and await the results before conducting CIAA business. However, have revealed that they did not receive those test results.
One allegation is that Travel Cayman did not take their contact details to provide them with the test results and no other attempts were made to contact them via their hotel.
At some point, they approached an operations officer and requested a ride in his golf cart. He has since been placed in 14-day quarantine.
Instead, they walked through the general aviation terminal unaccompanied and then interacted with four Aeronautical Information Services (AIS) employees in order to file their flight plans before departure. The female inspector proceeded to go to the restroom at this time.
An astute AIS employee realized that they were not on the slot time list which lists the approved flights that are cleared for operation. The slot time list is provided to various parties including Customs and Border Control, Island Air, Cayman Airways and other relevant authorities and personnel.
After contacting the command center to alert them of this procedural error it was then realized that the reason they were not on the approved list is that the negative PCR test result was not made available. The Health Services Authority was eventually contacted which resulted in the entire AIS department being told to isolate in their office until further notice.
The flight inspectors were contacted by air traffic control and instructed to return to the airport and remain on board pending clearance by Public Health. However, the inspectors landed and left the plane, walked back through the airport and returned to his rental car with their eventual destination unknown. Travel Time personnel were already on location and were tasked with watching them on the plane. However, they did not see them disembark and is said to have believed they were still on the aircraft.
During this time a delivery person went through the same area that the four AIS employees were isolated in to make a delivery to the weather service department. Additionally, a Cayman Airways employee went to the AIS department to file a flight plan for a CAL cargo flight. Apparently, there was no security personnel, Travel Time representatives or even CIAA management ensuring that the parties remained isolated with no contact with others.
As a result of this breach, the AIS staff and an operations officer guard were all forced into quarantine. Four persons have been placed at the Holiday Inn whilst one person was permitted to home quarantine. Other individuals like the delivery driver, CAL employee and the Communication and Navigation Services (CNS) department were not forced into quarantine despite having direct contact with the inspectors.
The flight inspectors were permitted to continue conducting the 3 hour testing on the same day (June 22) as other staff was being placed in quarantine. It appears that they received their negative PCR at some point in the early afternoon. On June 23 they departed for Cayman Brac but were turned back again because they did not have clearance to go to Cayman Brac. That was granted later on the day on Wednesday.
All persons impacted must be quarantined for 14 days despite a 10-day option being available. There were also concerns raised about the lack of communication with the airport personnel impacted by this incident as Travel Time had incorrect information about the date that they were placed into quarantine; which would have extended their quarantine stay by some 3 days.
It was revealed in October 2020 that the Chief Medical Officer has the discretion to allow service personnel to enter the country without being subjected to any mandatory quarantining period. With this latest breach, many questions are now being asked about the effectiveness of this procedure and who is ensuring full compliance with the terms of their entry.